By Kevin Kennedy
The newest edition of Nintendo’s popular Super Smash Brothers garnered a lot of hype in recent months. Fans of the series, myself included, have been waiting for a new Smash for the last few years, and we wondered how it would fair on the Wii U. But then Nintendo revealed that this installment would, in fact, release first on the 3DS. I was a little disappointed, as playing Super Smash Brothers on Gamecube, in the same room as my friends, is a fond memory from the early 2000s. Could a portable version of the game stand up to the console version?
Before I answer that, some impressions on the content of the game (which will be identical to the Wii U version, though each has its own set of levels): the new game offers a lot of content, from a campaign mode, to a “smash run” in which you platform, collecting powerups, before taking on your competition, to ranked (no powerups) or unranked (customized characters and powerups) online multiplayer. The roster draws from an impressive number of first- and third-party games, and many of the newcomers offer unique playstyles. Pac-Man munches pellets right into enemies and drops game items on their heads, while Charizard flies through enemies, dealing massive damage but risking falling off the sides of the level.
The 3DS version of the game, as mentioned above, features levels based on portable games, while the upcoming Wii U version will feature levels based on its titles. The levels in the 3DS version offer a good amount of variety, from forced side-scolling Mario levels, to my personal favorite, the Tomodachi Life apartment building (complete with your Miis, hanging out in their apartments while you battle). Fights are frantic, as always, and every character has its own strengths, lending to some interesting, if occasionally one-sided, fights. Some levels seem straightforward in terms of battle, while others lend themselves to accidental deaths or easy ways to trap opponents. In many fighting games I’d call these inconsistencies a problem, but in Super Smash, its par for the course. This series’ strength has always been on how it levels the playing field for players by constantly switching things up. In this way, the basic and unranked multiplayer modes succeed.
Now, does the portable format work? Well, yes and no. I find that the different modes, each lasting a different amount of time (from less than five minute smash battles, to longer smash runs, and the multi-part campaign), lend themselves to a portable format quite well. The different rewards each give, from custom items for Mii fighters to trophies or just in-game coins, match up rather well to the amount of commitment each require, and the scaling difficulty in the campaign, much like that in Kid Icarus: Uprising, offers a customizable challenge.
At the same time, the controls on 3DS aren’t so spectacular. The button configuration isn’t ideal for a fighting game, though there are workarounds. The small screen also offers problems, as even color-highlighted characters sometimes get lost in frantic battles. I’ve missed powerups, or triggered traps simply because the camera zoomed out and I couldn’t see them at all. While none of these issues are damning, they are often frustrating.
My overall verdict is to buy this game, despite the issues present in the portable version. This game offers enough variety and ongoing fun that the frustrations shouldn’t get in the way of a purchase, though they may be irritating sometimes. I wouldn’t want to get too involved in ranked matches with the 3DS version, and I wouldn’t choose it for tournaments, but for some quick, frenetic brawling on the go, this game is great. Hopefully, when the Wii U version launches next month, it will offer just as much fun, with more options for controllers and a larger screen.
All images copyright Nintendo, 2014